Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 30 June–1 July 1891

Date: June 30–July 1, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04723

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes July 9 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, near Chorley
Lancashire, England.1
30 June 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

Last evening I went to Johnston's2 to tea & spent an hour with him before coming on here. We talked of you & discussed the probability of the arrival of the mail &c. Just after tea your postcard of the 18th3 arrived & was greeted by cheers from us both. We were heartily pleased to receive it, & to read its cheering words. I made a hasty facsimile of it to bring home, which now lies before me.

I am very glad to note that you were recovering from the effects of "the fearful unprecedented three days hot spell" & were apparently in such good spirits. And blessings on the "two dear little boys"4 whose "delicious chatter" at the time of writing freshened & delighted you. As I get older I appreciate more & more the primal freshness & sweetness of children, & their innocent gladness & beauty. (Some little beauties near here.) I hope the two in question may retain these qualities through life, with graver ones added, as children of yours.

I found Johnston pretty well recovered from his accident, of which I believe he has told you.

The parcel of "Good Bye's"5 & portraits not yet received, but will probably come next mail. I will notify you on its arrival.

I expect to receive Lippincott's6 tomorrow or the day following.

The sultry weather of last week has passed, & cooler delightful weather set in. Has been a beautiful day today (though occasionally threatening) & the evening has been especially lovely, with the most beautiful roseate sky & clouds.

The Revd S. Thompson7—minister of the little Unitarian chapel at Rivington (built 1703—originally, and still nominally Presbyterian) called here this evening on his way home, & I walked to Rivington with him I never saw a more beautiful evening, & the charmingly idyllic country looked its best. The air was sweet & calm, but with a just felt breeze,—a slight pensive mist half veiling the distant landscape. I was quite loathe to return indoors, but I wanted to send you a few lines & it was getting late.

Thompson (an elderly, white bearded man, with healthy fresh complexion, clear honest grey eyes, & cordial friendly grasp & speech) always enquires the latest news about you, & honours you highly—& more & more as he knows you better. I spoke of writing & offered to convey his regards to you, & he seemed very pleased & quite affected by it. He thought it might seem "presumption," but he was glad to send you his warmest regards & best wishes.

Just before he came I had been reading in the 1855 edition of L. of G. My copy has a few press notices pasted in at the end, & I read some of these again. ("United States Review"—"American Phrenological Journal" & Brooklyn Daily Times."8) I wondered again who had written these.—It seems strange to me that since such appreciative notices appeared so soon after the first appearance of L. of G. your recognition should have proceeded so slowly. But it is very certain, & will be all the more complete & passionate because of the delay.

But I must close. With constant love & prayerful God speed

Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace

Wednesday evg July 1st Lippincott (July)9 does not contain item expected. I hope the reasons for this are quite satisfactory, & that no slight upon you is involved in it.

I write this in a field on my way to one of our buildings some 7 miles out of Bolton. Beautiful morning, grass in its full glory (haymaking just commencing in a few fields) a willow-wren singing its plaintive song close by, & a lark shaking down its ecstatic carol from the sky oerhead.10


Correspondent:
James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Along with John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician from Bolton, he founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328, Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey. | U.S. America. It is postmarked: BOLTON | 53 | [illegible] | 91; NEW YORK | JUL | 8 | B | 91 | PAID | A | ALL; CAMDEN [illegible] | [illegible] | 6 AM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927) of Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, was a physician, photographer, and avid cyclist. Johnston was trained in Edinburgh and served as a hospital surgeon in West Bromwich for two years before moving to Bolton, England, in 1876. Johnston worked as a general practitioner in Bolton and as an instructor of ambulance classes for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways. He served at Whalley Military Hospital during World War One and became Medical Superintendent of Townley's Hospital in 1917 (John Anson, "Bolton's Illustrious Doctor Johnston—a man of many talents," Bolton News [March 28, 2021]; Paul Salveson, Moorlands, Memories, and reflections: A Centenary Celebration of Allen Clarke's Moorlands and Memories [Lancashire Loominary, 2020]). Johnston, along with James W. Wallace, founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Johnston, see Larry D. Griffin, "Johnston, Dr. John (1852–1927)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Wallace's subsequent quotations in this letter confirm that he is referring to Whitman's postal card to Johnston dated June 18, 1891. [back]

4. Wallace is referring to Whitman's postal card to Johnston dated June 18, 1891, in which the poet refers to two unidentified "dear little boys" who came to visit him and cheered him up with their "delicious chatter." [back]

5. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine was a literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915. Joseph Marshall Stoddart was the editor of the magazine from 1886 to 1894, and he frequently published material by and about Whitman. For more information on Whitman's numerous publications here, see Susan Belasco, "Lippincott's Magazine." [back]

7. Reverend Samuel Thompson was the last resident minister of the Rivington Unitarian Chapel; he served as the minister from 1881 to 1909. He hosted and provided entertainment for the Eagle Street College group (later known as the Bolton College and the Bolton Fellowship)—a literary society established by James W. Wallace and dedicated to reading and discussing Whitman's work—when they celebrated Whitman's birthday each May 31st. [back]

8. Wallace is referring to three unsigned reviews of the first edition of Leaves of Grass that were written by Whitman himself. "Walt Whitman and His Poems" was published in The United States Review in September 1855, "An English and American Poet" was published in the American Phrenological Journal in October 1855, and "Walt Whitman, a Brooklyn Boy," was published in The Brooklyn Daily Times on September 29, 1855. [back]

9. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine did not publish Horace Traubel's "Walt Whitman's Birthday" and Whitman's preface to "Good-Bye My Fancy" (his second annex to Leaves of Grass) until their August issue. [back]

10. This text appears as a postscript to the letter and is written in pencil beneath Wallace's signature. [back]


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